Stories| Jolana Venenyová

Student Jolana Venenyová: Students gain more real life experience when abroad.

Did you know already at Open Gate that you wanted to go abroad to study?
Open Gate prepared me excellently for studying abroad. It gave me language skills and, most importantly, an opportunity to try an approach that is similar to international schools, and I had to be more independent as well. So I decided to use this advantage and build on everything I had learned in Babice. There were several criteria that went into my choice of university. I researched how strong universities were in the subject I wanted to study, and for me that was Political Science and International Relations. Then I wanted to know if the university offered an opportunity to take subjects outside the major, and also languages. And I also paid attention to its athletic and cultural facilities.

Would you choose the same field of study again?
Yes. When I chose what to study, I tried to combine what I like and what I’m good at with preferably an area that could offer me an interesting career in the future. Political Science and International Relations combine history and current global developments, and require an analytical approach. 

Do you think international university graduates have better career prospects?
I think international education is very sought-after by many employers, and for multiple reasons. They include a guarantee of language skills and independence. Graduates from foreign universities can always offer knowledge and experience that I don’t think you can garner at universities in the Czech Republic. I’m talking about practical skills primarily. Volunteering is not common at Czech universities; students are simply learning, plus they may gain extracurricular experience such as part-time or seasonal work or as temps. But that usually limits the time available for learning and vice versa. In other countries, it is common that students are involved in real life even while they are enrolled at university. In addition, the final years combine learning with a job in the field to an extent. 

Will you seek a job abroad or come back to the Czech Republic?
I certainly want to stay abroad working for a few years after graduation. Still, I plan to come back to the Czech Republic soon. If I want to build a solid career, my discipline is inherently international. You cannot isolate yourself within the confines of one country.

What has studying abroad given you so far? Are there any disadvantages? 
As anything else, studying abroad has its cons as well, but the pros predominate. I have learned a lot and am really proud of my achievements. For example, I can take care of myself and navigate a different cultural environment.

Thinking back of your beginnings, how quickly were you able to find your way around? 
Starting out in Scotland was quite difficult. Unlike the other students, I had no friends or family members in the entire country, and so I had to rely on myself in everything. On the other hand, everyone was extremely helpful and I was always able to find someone who was willing to give me advice. The worst thing for me was getting used to the local weather. It took me about three months to get accustomed to shorter and darker days.

Where do you feel more at home now? Which place is closer to your heart?
I can’t say I feel the U.K. is my home. My home is always where my family is. But I can say I feel like a fully-fledged part of British society. I understand local issues, watch British TV, and can navigate the local bureaucracy. That’s what’s great about the U.K. If you live there for a long time, they don’t treat you like a foreigner even if you don’t have a British passport. And Dundee is a city full of students. There are two universities in the city, so there is a lot of cultural life, and my university’s Students’ Association is regularly named one of the best in all of the U.K. The local Scots are generally very nice and open to foreigners. That made my adaptation to the new country and culture much easier. 

Was it more difficult to obtain a grant from The Kellner Family Foundation when you finished grammar school, or now that you are looking to continue in a master’s degree program?
The selection of students to obtain the Foundation grant for the bachelor’s degree program took place in the last but one year of the grammar school, i.e. when many of us had not yet decided what and where to study. I had to decide at least in part, and then the requirements were quite demanding – average grades, personal essay, leisure activities and volunteering. In fact, every aspect of my secondary school studies was judged. I also had to achieve excellent International Baccalaureate results. With all of this, students demonstrate to the Foundation that they are academically mature enough to make full use of the opportunity to go abroad to study. 

The process was similar at the university this time around. To obtain the grant for the subsequent master’s degree program I had to demonstrate in my application that I not only had the academic aptitude to attend Oxford, but that I had also been participating in volunteering and other activities. Only a few applicants receive grants for their master’s years, so you really need to work on it from the very beginning. 

Does your success motivate your friends who have stayed in the Czech Republic?
My family and friends are obviously very proud that I can make my dreams come true. As for friends, I try to show them how hugely beneficial studying abroad can be, and also that it is certainly not unachievable. Concerns of failure are often stronger than the desire to study abroad and the courage to try it amongst high school students. But all you really have to do is just try a bit harder. Don’t just do what you have to in order to pass your school-leaving examination; do more on top of that. Also, as far as I can remember, some schoolmates were worried about living alone so far from home. I can understand that not everyone wants to leave for such a long time. But if anyone asks me about details or tips for studying or working abroad, I am always willing to help. 

Studying means a lot of work – is there time to relax too? How often do you come back to Karviná?
You can easily manage both with a bit of planning. I don’t feel like I have sacrificed all of my social life for my studies. I like to relax by exercising and reading, as well as with a nice cup of coffee and friends. I always come to Karviná on vacations, both Christmas and summer. It may not seem enough, but I really get just enough rest and spend enough time with all my friends and family.

Would you recommend your path to others who are deciding on what to do with their lives?
Anyone who is just making the decision on whether to try and go study abroad should know that everyone, including me, is worried and concerned initially. And yes, it’s a much more difficult path than, say, staying in Prague. But four years later I can assure anyone that if you are courageous enough to make the difficult decision and go so far away from your loved ones, the reward is just amazing. That’s the only way to live through the bevy of experiences that other students in the Czech Republic can envy.

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